Back some time in the early 2000’s, not long after I moved to Belgium, I became friends with Judith Rust who, as well as singing in the chorus of Antwerp Opera, loves the traditional music and culture of India. She introduced me to her friend the master percussionist Pandit Udhav Shinde.
We hit it off musically, and, with Judy singing traditional Indian songs and playing tanpura, a drone-like stringed instrument be began performing as The Udhav Shinde Trio.
I found this group to be both challenging and inspiring. Udhav’s incredible rhythmic mastery on the pakhawaj (a two-ended drum with one end like a tabla, the other producing a deep, bass sound, which is tuned using chapatti dough) provides a generous rhythmic structure, while the absence of a harmonic framework (but presence of the tanpura) caused me to dig more deeply into melodic exploration than I ever had done before. In addition the traditional Indian songs (which often have a spiritual significance) are quite beautiful and special in quality.
With hindsight, I think that my previous explorations of Celtic music (very modal and rhythmic in nature) and even (though the musical link seems distant) my experiences playing behind singers in soul and funk bands (where I learned to devise melodic lines to compliment the vocals, and provide an interlude) both informed my playing on this record. (I guess that shows that nothing we ever learn, musically, is wasted!)
But at the time – I didn’t think much about any of that. I just tried to keep up with Udhav and play whatever seemed to make sense. I hope that I did OK.
The recording was made over two live concerts in Antwerp in 2003.